The first time I heard this version of Rhapsody in Blue, it was morning and I was sitting on a friend’s deck in South Westerlo, NY. My first thought was who is this clown ruining Gershwin’s masterpiece. I found out later that it was George Gershwin playing the piano and I was the one playing the clown.
It takes nothing away from George’s brother Ira – one of the great lyricists of the 20th Century – to site this instrumental piece as the best Gershwin song. It would normally be pitiable to peak at 26, but any composer would welcome a peak like this, at 26 or 86.
You need to listen to two versions to appreciate the depth of the man’s genius. It was written on piano but the opening clarinet raises the melody that proceeds it to ridiculous heights.
Born in 1898, in Brooklyn, today would have been George Gershwin’s 119th birthday. He didn’t live to see his 40th. Here’s Lenny and the boys giving Rhapsody in Blue the royal treatment.